Thrill seekers and hedonists come by the bucket load to Bali's southern surfing mecca. Over the years, the place has graduated from unknown fishing town on the edge of the Indian Ocean to hippie enclave in the 60s and 70s. More recently it’s boomed with chichi resorts and swish clubs. Bamboo warungs (earthy regional kitchens selling affordable food) have sprung up all along its main drag, and there are surf schools aplenty fringing the salt-sprayed shore.
And if all that paints of a picture of an awesome place to visit, then that's because Kuta really is! Easy-to-reach for the Aussies, loaded with Irish bars for the Gaelic folk, awash with sports bars for the NFL heads, peppered with markets and cheap accommodation options for everyone else, there's a real international vibe here that's difficult to find anywhere else in Indo.
And then there's the nightlife of Kuta. Bali has nowhere else that can match the wild all-nighters and endless dance parties of this town in the south. Folk come here to pre-drink on the sands with the red-pink hues of the sun over the sea. They come to don the fancy dress in rooftop clubs. They come to kick-back with Bintangs and reggae, or to guzzle chilled sundowners over the Indian Ocean. Here's our guide of how to make the most of Kuta, Bali after dark…
Three for the price of one in Kuta
Before delving into all the top places to party the night away in around Kuta, Bali, it's worth just pointing something out about this much-visited spot. Rather than one individual town, Kuta is actually a string of three or more towns. It goes from Kuta itself, through to Legian, and then to the pool-dotted town of Seminyak further north. These run their way along the South Coast of the Isle of the Gods, just north of where the rugged cliffs of the Bukit Peninsula give way to the pro surfing coves that made this destination such a wave-rider mecca. They are connected by the sprawl of Kuta town, which has grown to join them together over the years.
What's more, each area has its own distinct character in terms of nightlife. That means we'll need to take a look at em' separately, to see which has the best backpacker haunts, where boasts the chicest cocktail options, and which one's got the headiest all-nighters on the Balinese menu…
Kuta itself: Where the wild ones go
Kuta is the most-visited of the trio of areas that make up the town. It's the southernmost one, and has a famous stretch of sand that runs from the roaring reef breaks close to the airport through to some of the most accessible beach breaks on all of Bali – perfect for beginners looking to get on the board.
And when you're done waxing down the fibreglass and showing off your skills on the waves, Kuta is ready to party. Make a beeline for the sleepless strip of Poppies II. This cuts right through the heart of the area, and is home to oodles of little backpacker guesthouses, handy 7-Elevens, and – you guessed it! – places to drink. Just to the south of this central drag is Poppies I, and Sorga Lane, both of which have a similar array of bars and party holes. Base your night around this trio and you're bound to find somewhere to let loose!
But where are the best venues to party in Kuta, Bali? Well, the undisputed king of the evenings here has to be Sky Garden. You simply can't go a day or two without hearing this one mentioned in whispers. And to be fair, its laser-lit rooftop bar, with panoramic views over the city and chic sitting areas, mega-name DJ parties and endless calendar of cool events, really does make it worth the hype!
Other places that vie for crowds later on in the evening in Kuta include the colossal Hard Rock Café on the shore (expect equally as renowned DJs here), and the endearingly cheesy and tacky Bounty Ship club (think dancers in cages, glowing chandeliers and curated DJ sets of classic tunes).
For pre-drinking, Kuta has a wealth of chilled out bars along the aforementioned streets, along with the likes of Simpsons Bar, which spills out onto the sands right by the sea – perfect for hangover curing and surf watching! Other great options include Paddy's Pub, known for its BOGOF Bintang deals and long happy hours, and little TJ's the Mexican, where tequilas are the perfect accompaniment to a pre-party taco!
Legian: Backpackers abound between the ramshackle bars
The area of Legian is almost indiscernible from Kuta (in fact, many guides won't even distinguish between the two), except that it takes on a slightly more low-key and backpacker feel, is a tad grimier, and has more ramshackle bars than its near compadre just to the south.
There are actually countless alleyways and side streets to explore in Legian, each crisscrossing the marketplaces of knock-off designer wear and running towards the shore. These are great places to go in search of nameless little beer shacks; and you're sure to find everything from seedy massage parlours to welcoming little sports bars on the corners. However, the main drag, and the real focus of Legian's nightlife is Jalan Legian, which run south to north alongside the town.
Not counting Sky Garden (which has already been covered in our Kuta section), this area hosts a number of cool clubs. There's Vi Ai Pi; a restaurant and bar combo with great live music most nights of the week, and a fine cocktail menu to match. There's MBarGo just next door, which thumps with hefty bass tracks and new R&B, slim and scantily-clad dancers adorning its bar top, and chic sofas for the seating. And then there's loveable Eikon, complete with mezzanine decks, a great crowd of locals and travelers, and some of the best bands from Bali and Indo you can get in all of Kuta.
Seminyak: For the jet setters, chin waggers and sunset watchers
Finally comes Seminyak. This area is widely known for its abundance of luxurious villas and opulent hotels, which all crash down to the edge of the Bali Sea with their infinity pools and palm-dotted gardens. Of course, that means the partying crowd tends to be a little more moneyed in these parts, and the venues have a style to match.
Start your evening of refined cocktail sipping on the edge of Seminyak beach. Here, you'll discover the glistening pools of hotel bars like Mozaic. One of the best is the Potato Head Beach Club; a curved arc of almost brutalist architecture that hides grassy lawns for long drinks and a fully-serviced poolside seating area. It's perhaps the top spot to come and watch the sunset with a beer in all of Kuta. There are suaver (read 'expensive') places to pre-drink away from the shoreline too, like the jet setter-only Red Carpet Champagne Bar, or the Single Malt Bar, with its countless bourbons and Scotches and aged cask brews from Scotland.
Later in the evening there's a choice of two fantastic venues: WooBar and Ku De Ta. Despite the lengthy cocktail menus and Gucci-clad patrons, these are actually very similar to the clubs of Kuta when the shindigs get flowing. They pulse with electronica and legendary DJ acts throughout the season, all with the added bonus of plush VIP areas with recliners and leather seating.
Can you think of any other places that simply need to be on this list of Kuta, Bali nightlife musts? Have you recently been to the Isle of the Gods and have an update for our readers on one of the venues? We'd love to hear about it all in the comments below. And if you think it's time you headed for Bali to party the night away yourself, be sure to check out LBW's offering of awesome itineraries there…
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